What is a bagel?
A bagel is a cooked, baked, ring-shaped plain pastry with sesame seeds, fennel, poppy seeds, onions, garlic, or mustard, usually soft within with a hard crust. Bagels are one of the most iconic foods with wide adoption across several places in the world. Bagels are not just popular in North America but in other continents, with each location having its version. Far back in Europe, it was believed that a bagel could deter evil spirits, so pregnant women used to wear a bagel around their necks. It is not clear if that is a single bagel on a string or a string of bagels. It is even more unclear how they resisted the temptation of not eating it.
Today, bagels have become a signature of New York in the US. Also, the Bagel Festival has been held for more than 35 years in Mattoon, Illinois, US, where the largest bagel factory in the world is located. In Turkey, you will find a puff pastry bagel called Simit. In Romania, April 26 is always celebrated as the holiday of Kubrig, which is the Romanian bagel holiday. In Montreal, Canada, bagels have been characterized as one of their typical foods. It is common to get a sweeter bagel type called the Montreal Bagels in Montreal. In 2008, the Canadian astronaut, Gregory Chamitoff flew to his space mission with 18 kinds of Montreal sesame bagels from his cousin’s bakery in Montreal. Therefore, bagels are cosmopolitan foods with which many cultures wish to be identified. We bring to you everything you need to know about bagels in this article.
THE MONTREAL BAGEL
The Jewish community in Montreal is one of the largest in Canada and has brought some cuisines that have become an integral part of the city. This has led to the introduction of sweet bagels, straight into the fascinating gastronomy of Montréal. The Montreal bagel (as it is been called) has been classified as one of the top 10 Montreal foods, that many of the city’s residents have no idea that it emigrated from Poland with the Jewish community.
The Montreal bagel is different from its New York variant. The traditional Montreal bagel is distinguished by its preparation method. The dough is boiled in honey water, malt flour is used, it is rolled by hand, it does not contain salt, and it is baked with firewood. The consistency of the bread is crisp and slightly sweet.
Some bakeries in Montreal are recognized for being the first to prepare this traditional bread. Fairmount Bagels was opened in 1949 and later renamed The Original Fairmount Bagel Factory. Also, St-Viateur Bagel opened in 1957.
Both bakeries are popular for the quality of their bread and desserts. The bakeries serve fresh bagels straight from the oven 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On the weekends, the queues spill out into the street. In the middle of the night, it is common to see a group of young people preying on a dozen bagels that have just been taken out of the oven, alongside cream and smoked salmon with drunken lusts that leave sesame and cream cheese trails on their cheeks.
These two famous bagel bakeries in Montreal compete for customers in the fashionable Mile & End neighborhood, where two bearded populations coexist: followers and hipsters. Every self-respecting Montreal has a favorite bakery of this two, but the truth is that in taste tests, they insist on making a difference.
MONTREAL BAGEL VS NEW YORK BAGEL
The Montreal bagel and New York bagel share some similarities, which makes many people wonder what the differences are between both. We will like to give you the similarities between both first. Both Montreal and New York bagels have a ring shape. While preparing both variants, barley malt syrup is usually added to the dough. Also, both dough are boiled in water and are being baked in traditional ovens.
Despite their similarities in preparation, the New York and Montreal bagels are different. Their difference is known through some parameters such as size, texture, taste, varieties, ingredients.
In terms of textural difference, the New York bagel has a chewy, doughy, and “fluffier” texture. The Montreal bagel is also doughy but it is thinner and denser than its New York counterpart. Also, the Montreal bagel has a crunchier exterior than that of New York.
In terms of ingredients and preparation, both have differences. The dough of Montreal bagel is usually boiled in honey-water or sweetened water, with extra eggs added before baking, while the New York bagel is boiled in plain water. This is the reason why the Montreal bagel tastes sweeter than that of New York.
More so, the Montreal-style bagel is usually prepared without much fancy toppings or filings. The Montreal bagel may is simply prepared plainly or topped with sesame or poppy seeds. However, the New York bagel is usually stuffed with a lot of other ingredients like juicy cheddar cheese, scrambled egg, garlic, bacon, onion, etc. Many bagel shops in Montreal have been preparing bagel types stuffed with other ingredients like that of the New York. Moreover, salt is usually added to the New York bagel, while it is deficient in the Montreal bagel.
Size-wise, the Montreal bagel is much larger than that of New York. Also, the hole within the ring of the Montreal bagel is bigger than that of its counterpart.
THE ORIGIN OF BAGEL
The origin of this ring-shaped bread, with a curious texture and soft crust date back to the seventeenth century. As it always happens with everything good, there are quite a few versions of its origin story, here are some of them.
The best-known history says that an Austrian baker living in Krakow, baked a loaf in honor of King Jan III Sobieski (Poland) in 1683, to commemorate the victory over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna. This king, according to the story, was a skilled and assiduous horseman, so the bread was shaped like a stirrup. The German word, “Steigbügel” is said to means a handle or stirrup. Therefore, the baker called the round pastry a bügel because its shape was like the shape of a stirrup (the part of the saddle where the feet rest). Also from Krakow is another historical version that says bagel was made to compete with Bublik, a local thin bread. Be that as it may, the term derived from what we know today: the bagel.
Another story claims that its origin dates from Jewish cuisine and that its name comes from the Yiddish bajgiel which means to fold. In the United States, the bagel is called the Jewish Bagel. The bagel was especially loved by the Jews because it was possible to prepare it and set it aside before Shabbat, and cook afterward. Immediately after Shabbat, they cook the dough circles in the oven, resulting in hot and fragrant bread within minutes. Also, the bagel is said to be prepared as a Jewish dish for the mourning days of the Shiva, and as a symbol of the continuity of the generations. This same story holds that the bread was a kind of gift given to women who had just given birth.
Later, the wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe to North America brought with them their gastronomic customs, among which is the bagel, which due to its slightly chewy taste was well received, so much that New Yorkers adopted it as their own and popularized it from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Montreal did not delay and spread the “Montreal bagel”, to which they added egg in the dough without salt. The bagel is so special because, unlike other bread, it is cooked first in water and then in the oven, where it is sprinkled with seeds on top, giving it a plump and appetizing look.
The truth is that the bagel began as austere bread that was sold and exhibited skewered on wooden sticks, in this way the itinerant bakers transported it more easily without spoiling it. From its dense European ancestors to the soft fluffiness of today’s bagel, there is a big difference, although both are stars per se because there are no dislikes in tastes.
Gone are the days when bagels were consumed alone because a multitude of fillings has taken over their entrails, perhaps the most popular being smoked salmon with cream cheese, known worldwide as Bagel New York. If you’re into the sweet life, try the cheesy jam, and if you get Greek cheese, the result is even better. By the way, if you have wondered how it is pronounced, it is correct to pronounce it “beiguel” or “baguel”; the first would sound in English and the second in German or Spanish.
Bagel in North America
In 1907, the International Beigel Bakers Union was established until 1964 and dictated the rules on the weight of the bagel (57-85 grams), the raw materials for making the dough, and also who can be a bagel baker. The organization had 36 New York bakeries and 300 bakers. The union members decided that more bagel bakeries would be opened only by the sons of the union bakers.
In 1951 the union activated its force and forcibly closed 32 bakeries that were not bound by the union’s rules, and so at one point, the consumption of bagels in New York dropped because there were 50% less bakeries. During the 7 weeks of the crisis, consumption of smoked salmon in New York fell by half, and eventually, the crops were straightened out for another decade. In the 1960s, when vending machines were introduced to make bagels, the union disbanded, and a hot, fresh bagel can be found in almost every deli, usually twice the size of the union’s stringent standard.
In 1960 Daniel Thompson invented the first machine to create a pretzel and then began the debate that continues to this day, whether the taste of a pretzel from the machine equals a bagel made by hand. Making the process mechanical and easy to prepare, the bagel spread all over North America. Another process that brought the bagel to every supermarket and from there to every home, is the invention of the frozen bagel in the 60s of the last century, by the Lender family and their factory.
Origin of the Montreal style bagels in Montreal
There are various theories about the origins of the bagel in Montreal, Canada, but the truth is that this bread became an important part of Montreal’s cuisine; from 1900 with the arrival of Jewish immigrants who came from Europe and moved to the Mile End area.
As regards who first introduced the bagel in Montreal, there are a few different accounts about that. A report claims that bagel was first baked by a man called Chaim Seligman, who then hawked the bread across the Mile End neighborhood in a wheelbarrow. Another story claimed that Isadore Shlafman was the first man to ever bake the bagel in Montreal, and he sold it in his small shop which was located around Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
However, this goes in contrast with a report from another source that claims Shlafman, together with two other bakers named Seligman and Myer Lewkowicz partnered to start making bagels in Montreal. However, their partnership was short-lived. Later in the year 1954, Shlafman was said to move his bakery to Fairmount Avenue and named his bagel brand Fairmount Bagel. Three years later (1957), the fellow bakers; Seligman and Myer Lewkowicz established their bagel brand called St-Viateur Bagel. Therefore, the rivalry for the best bagel brand in the bagel scene of Montréal is due to the feud among the fellow bakers. This is a hint on why Fairmont and St-Viateur bagel has been in competition for more than 6-decades.
THE BEST MONTRÉAL BAGELS NEAR ME IN MONTREAL
If you’re searching for a Montreal-style bagel near me in Montreal, then we have got you covered. Here are bakeries where you can get the best bagels in Montreal.
• St-Viateur Bagel Shop
This bakery has several outposts in Montreal but their main spot is located at 263 Rue Saint-Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1, Canada. The St-Viateur shop is one of the hottest spots for bagels in Montreal. The Fairmont Family Bagel Bakery is run on a level and still follows the recipe of its founder, Isador Schleffman: handmade muffins, cooked in honey water and then baked in a wood oven. It is their recipe that has made Montreal the bagel capital of Canada, and the Fairmont Bagel the best in the city.
Whatever type of bagel you like; from a seedless plain bagel to bagels topped with flavors from sesame seeds, poppy, onion, garlic, and other ingredients, they offer everything. This is why you will see everyone, from high society people to young people queue in line at the Fairmont Bagel for some late-night bite here. This bakery is open 24/7 for everyone. Entering their bakery welcomes you with a freshly-baked bagel flavor. There is no comforting food like a hot Montreal-style hot bagel from their oven.
• Fairmount Bagel Shop
Located 74 Av. Fairmount O, Montréal, QC H2T 2M2, Canada, Fairmont bagel shop is one of the top brands of bagel in Montreal. It is also, of course, a contender of the bagel crown with St-Viateur shop. This bagel shop is credited to Montreal’s legendary baker named Isadore Shlafman. In 2008, a Canadian astronaut named Gregory Chamitoff flew to space with bagels made from Fairmont shop.
The bagel in the shop are hand-rolled and baked in a wooden oven. Fairmont also offers varieties; plain or dressed with either sesame or poppy seeds. Fairmount prepared bagels stuffed with cheese cream, which is very tasty. The distinct color of their bagel and its taste is can not be resisted by their customers. We recommend that you go there early in the morning to avoid a long queue.
Many people only know about St-Viateur and Fairmont bagel in Montreal, but Beauty also offer excellent bagels in the city. Beauty is located at 93 Mont-Royal Ave W, Montreal, Quebec H2T 2S5, Canada. The beauty bagel shop in Montreal is not a new establishment but has been established in the 1900s. Their sesame bagel with cheese cream will make you crave more. You can also enjoy other kinds of their bagels flavored with tomato, onion, and other toppings. You need to be cautious because their bagel’s tastiness can tempt you to over-eat. When that happens, you have no other option than to drag yourself back home.
We hope that this article has helped you know more about bagels in general, and specifically the Montreal-style bagel. If you don’t have the time to dine in any of the mentioned places to get Montreal bagels near me above, we recommend that you use food delivery services like eezly. eezly is in partnership with some of the best bagel shops in Montreal and will get your bagel to you in a few minutes. If I were you, I will consider ordering my bagel via eezly rather than joining a queue at these locations.